A statement on Baldacci’s Web site said those eligible for the health payments include city and county law enforcement officers and firefighters who are 50 to 65 years old, eligible for a workplace defined contribution program and who retire before they are eligible for Medicare.
“Our county and local law enforcement officers and firefighters protect the health and safety of Maine people, putting their lives on the line for us, each and every day they go to work,” said Baldacci, in the Web statement. “Providing them with access to affordable health insurance in their retirement is the fair and right thing to do.”
The program is financed through a mix of funds including contributions from active and retired employees and other state revenue. Coverage will be available beginning July 1, 2007, although enrollment will take place before that time, the state said.
The benefit is similar to the one offered teachers, who now have 45% of their retirement health insurance subsidized by the state. Neither group is actually made up of state employees, who get up to 100% of their retirement health insurance covered based on years of service.
The bill was touch and go in the Maine state House, where it finally passed by one vote. Support was stronger in the Senate, but still largely along party lines, according to a news report.
According to keepMEcurrent.com, a Maine Web site, state Representative William Smith, a Democrat, spoke against the bill despite his party’s support for it. “There are too many equally deserving groups,” he said, according to the news report.